Ambitious Summer Reading List: Cary Grant By Marc Eliot (2004)

We just got back from a week-long vacation and I’ve finished another book from the Ambitious Summer Reading List! First, I knocked out The Death-Bringers by Dell Shannon, then I finally finished Stephen King’s Desperation, I read all of Marc Eliot’s Cary Grant in about three days and I’m now nudging my way into Alistair MacLean’s When Eight Bells Toll, but that’s a story for another post.

I decided to buy this bio on the Hollywood legend after reading George Hamilton’s fascinating autobiography a few years back. It’s been a while since I read that one, but I have this vague memory of Hamilton mentioning how Grant rode onto a golf course on a horse or something along those lines. It must have been enough to capture my curiosity, because I ordered the book…and then it sat in a box for several years.   Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: Cary Grant By Marc Eliot (2004)

Ambitious Summer Reading List: Desperation By Stephen King (1996)

Two down, fourteen to go! Considering summer only officially started a few days ago and I’ve got a few week long vacations in the offing, it’s almost looking like I’ll make it through a good number of these books! As I said when I wrote about Dell Shannon’s The Death-Bringers, I’d actually been reading Stephen King’s Desperation when I not only put this Ambitious Summer Reading List together, but also when I took a break to read through that much shorter police procedural. Why you ask? Because Desperation is a tough book to read for both good and bad reasons.

Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: Desperation By Stephen King (1996)

Ambitious Summer Reading List: The Death-Bringers By Dell Shannon (1964)

Well, I’m at it again. I’ve done more than a few of these Ambitious Reading List posts in the past and only gotten a few deep each time. So, this time around I decided to give myself even more books to read through! Worse yet, when I decided to start this little project I was already about halfway through Stephen King’s Desperation which is a very big book! Yesterday my son was sick with a stomach bug and I felt like switching gears in between making sure he had everything he needed, so I grabbed Dell Shannon’s The Death-Bringer‘s off the pile and actually read the whole thing in one day (possibly a first for this slow reader). Boy, that felt good! Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: The Death-Bringers By Dell Shannon (1964)

Ambitious Reading List: The Loo Sanction by Trevanian

the loo sanctionHey look, I finished another book from my latest Ambitious Read List! Even though I just wrote about Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot last month, I can’t revel in this literary moral victory because I actually started this book…way too long ago. My father-in-law passed me this book along with its predecessor in the Jonathan Hemlock series The Eiger Sanction a few years ago and now I’m finally done with them (and wishing Trevanian had gotten around to writing a few more).

As this 1973 novel picks up Jonathan Hemlock is out of the sanction game until he’s framed by the British version of the shadowy organization he used to work for and blackmailed into infiltrating a sex club for the powerful in order to return some videos of politicians in compromising situations. Along the way he meets a wannabe Irish spy who he kinda sorta falls for, but she’s also wrapped up in some of these shenanigans so it gets a bit dicey.

So, why did it take me so long to read this book? Honestly, it’s a little boring in the offing. It also lacked that magic thing that keeps driving you on to read the next chapter. I don’t know what that is, but ‘Salem’s Lot had it and Loo Sanction just didn’t. At the same time, I like this character so I wanted to see where he wound up, so I kept returning to it every now and then and eventually got to the point where I was fully absorbed. There are also some particularly nasty moments in this book that were hard to get through and too much on many fronts. Supposedly this was written as a satire of the James Bond movies, but kitchen utensils never seemed so awful in a Bond film.

To go along with the satire threat, there was an element to this book that I picked up on that I didn’t see in the previous entry: it’s intentionally poking fun at the ridiculousness of rich and powerful people. Everyone with any kind of power in this novel also has some over-the-top trait which our hero bristles at because, even though he’s cultured and well-to-d0, he’s a kid from the streets at heart. For example, the Vicar who runs England’s sanction department winks like a maniac. Maxwell Strange, the man who runs the sex club, would be considered a health freak even by today’s standards and Amazing Grace is a surprisingly short woman who spends most of her time walking around naked. These might feel like odd traits at first — especially if you look at them through the frame of the Bond films — but after reading about more quirks than an episode of New Girl, I started to catch on.

At the end of the day, while this one didn’t exactly kick off with my interest, it certainly garnered it halfway through as I wound up reading the last 150 pages or so during flights to and from Indiana. Also, I assume if you’re a faster and more dedicated reader than I am, you’d get through the early parts faster and not dwell on them as I tend to.

Looking at the line-up for the Reading List, I’ve already 86ed the book of essays about comics and think I’m going to move on to either The Dante Club or the Freddy Krueger book because it’s almost fall and Halloween’s around the corner!

Ambitious Reading List: ‘Salem’s Lot By Stephen King (1975)

salem's lot my copyI’m not doing very well with this summer’s Ambitious Reading List. I thought I’d finish The Loo Sanction, but it never quite grabbed me. I tried to start a few other books from the pile, but decided to put Stephen King’s The Dark Tower aside for another of his works: ‘Salem’s Lot.

I knew nothing about this book going in. I didn’t realize it was just his second novel after Carrie and I certainly didn’t know it was about vampires. I kind of wish I hadn’t read that bit of information, but it’s hardly a spoiler, though I was enjoying going into a book that’s been around for so long basically blind. Continue reading Ambitious Reading List: ‘Salem’s Lot By Stephen King (1975)

Ambitious Summer Reading List 2015

ambitious summer reading list 2015The other day I was cleaning out the garage and came across a few boxes of unread books that I was able to combine, but only if I pulled a few out. I figured that was as good a reason as any to try my hand (and eyes) at another Ambitious Summer Reading list. There’s just something about the warm weather that makes me want to stay inside and read, I guess.

As usual, I’ve got a pretty eclectic selection here. From the top, Ghosts And Things is a spooky anthology from 1962 that includes stories by Henry James, Ambrose Bierce and others. I’m thinking about reading these stories in between other books, but the James story was SUPER boring, so I’m not sure if I’ll stick with that plan.

Below that is the 1979 Avengers novel The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by the awesome David Micheline. In the 90s I read a lot of superhero novels and am curious to see how this early example is. Then there’s Freddy Krueger’s Tales Of Terror #2: Fatal Games. My buddy Jesse sent me this and I’m pretty excited to read it because I love Freddy and this looks like the Christopher Pike novels I read in grade school.

You can also see Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. I’ve heard a lot of different things about this series over the years and made sure to get the pre-revised version of this book, so we’ll see how this goes. Switching gears completely, I’ve also got Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City. I listened to the audiobook version of Klosterman’s IV a few years back and picked this up not long after. I’m a sucker for music related autobios, so I’m sure this will be awesome.

I know absolutely nothing about Twilight Of The Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg other than the fact that it was like a dollar at one of all time favorite discount stores that’s no longer around. But, hey, it’s about superheroes, so it should be in my wheelhouse (I hope). At the bottom of the pile you’ll see another comic-related book, this one Mark Evanier’s column collection Comic Books And Other Necessities Of Life. For some reason I thought this was a collection of interviews, but I must be thinking of ANOTHER book in one of my boxes. Evanier’s one of the best comic historians around, so I’m sure this will be an interesting read.

That brings us to the last three books. Trevanian’s The Loo Sanction is the sequel to The Eiger Sanction, a book I read last year and really enjoyed. There’s also my first Raymond Chandler book Farewell, My Lovely and The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. I must have read about that last one ten years ago and always wanted to check it out, but haven’t gotten around to it until now!

As you can probably tell, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to these selections. I tried to balance out longer books with shorter ones just to take it a little easy on myself. I haven’t been taking much time to read actual books lately, but I’m hoping that this will push me in that direction. I’m kicking off with The Loo Sanction because I actually started it like six months ago and want to finish it. I’m about halfway through and trying to spend more time with good books, so I’ll hopefully be posting about that one soon!

Ambitious Halloween Reading List: Creepy Archives Vol. 1

creepy volume 1 Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.

I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.

The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.

ambitious halloween reading list 2013In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.

But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).